Norwegian trippy harbingers Saint Karloff gave us a taste of things to come when they released initial single ‘Ghost Smoker’, and it’s this mammoth track that opens up debut album All Heed the Black God (Twin Earth/ Hellas), dripping diseased Doom through the ears with the groove and pace of Rock ‘n’ Roll and the banging heaviness of Occult mystery. The rhythms ooze power, and whilst some gorgeous lead guitar and vocal harmonies occasionally lighten the air, the time switches add electricity.
‘Space Junkie’ is a ripping journey through the cosmos, wedding the thuggish Indie of Kasabian with the sinister, serial-killer warmth of Uncle Acid: the lungs of Mads Melvold hollering with gusto whilst wrapped in a gloriously mono fuzz. Melvold’s riff is low, fast and filthy; the beat thudding and frenetic; the whole track growing into a serious floor filler. In stark yet wonderful contrast, the brief ‘Ganymede’ is a honeyed, mellow journey through acoustic Americana which should drift on way beyond its two minutes, and which displays the band’s creativity in beautiful fashion.
The evil Psychedelia returns with ‘Dark Sun’, a medium-paced growler carrying more foreboding than the Stygian witches and a coda from the Electric Wizard handbook: nevertheless it retains an element of melody with sparing backing harmonies and Melvold’s tuneful howl. ‘Radioactive Tomb’, meanwhile, is the album’s highlight: overall another rollicking romp through a skunk fog and patchouli oil, Adam Suleiman’s percussion and the lightning bassline of Ole Sletner govern a delicate centre movement which is complemented perfectly by Melvold’s jangling leadwork.
‘When The Earth Cracks Open’ is a frolic through late seventies NWOBHM, but the atmospheric production and warping solo ensure that heady vibes still influence the texture. That magical rhythm section dictate both ‘…Open’s finale and the outset of closer ‘Spellburn’: the leadwork decorating the latter is utterly dreamy, but when the riff and oscillating vocal kick in it returns to a warm, cushioned descent towards Lucifer.
Though this album’s composition is clever, the stunning musicianship and arrangement are the standout factors. When one ingredient looks set to steal the show, another comes to the fore with flawless timing, creating an organic flow which sounds wonderfully retro yet urgent. These guys can be huge.